May 25, 2023


Esports (short for “electronic sports”) is one of the fastest-growing parts of student life in America and Oakwood’s Esports team is quickly becoming a force in the competitive gaming world. During the COVID-19 lockdown, many students discovered video games as a means to connect and interact with their friends and family. Isai ‘23 saw an opportunity to channel this enthusiasm for the sport he loves into something tangible. He was determined to rebuild the Esports club at Oakwood into a league that would both excel in competition and support players in their future gaming endeavors. “When I came to Oakwood as a freshman, one of my biggest goals was to be put in an institute that provided students the resources they need to be able to move on to college and make it a career, if they want,” he shares. Jonathan Claridge, Oakwood Classroom Assistant and Esports coach explains that “this is one of the fastest growing groups or fields in school partly because it’s so new.” Jonathan recognizes that the emergence of Esports in high school empowers students who (like himself) have a passion for gaming to join a community. “This is an opportunity for students to express themselves and a way to get involved in school that hasn’t existed before.”

Oakwood E-Sports Leaders

The Oakwood Esports club had their first competition in February 2023, and the leadership team continues to be deeply grateful for their collective journey to get to this moment. “I became the Esports leader, and together with [twin brothers] Max ‘25 and Matthew ‘25, we started the Esports team at Oakwood. I think part of an Esports education means becoming a better leader. Esports has pushed us to become better researchers and builders. It has helped us to learn how systems work, how to partner with other schools and leagues, how to help others, and how to support Oakwood,” Isai says. In his quest for a leadership team, he sought students with a passion for gaming and a strong desire to support others. Enter high school freshmen Max ‘25 and Mathew ‘25, and together they rebuilt the club. “It takes a lot of work to get where we are now. It takes a lot of learning, development, growth, and communication. We had to learn how to pace ourselves,” says Max.

Both Max and Matthew see a lot of potential in Oakwood’s growing gaming community. “While it doesn’t have the same familiarity, Esports is the same concept as any traditional sport—baseball, soccer, or basketball—and if these kids are passionate about it, let’s try to build that passion. Why waste all of that talent?” explains Max. Matthew describes the high school league (HSEL) as being where you’ll “get noticed and potentially can get scholarships—this is where you play in order to get noticed by colleges and other leagues, so you can play at a higher level.”

With Esports officially up and running, the Minecraft team, including Andrew ‘23 and Ollie ‘25, had a very successful first year. Andrew made it to the playoffs and has a chance of winning up to $1500 in scholarships for college. He worked closely with the leadership team to build the club and appreciates the learning opportunity. “It’s helped me gain a better understanding of working with the staff. Oakwood is great in being supportive in opening clubs and programs, but it is still a mountain to climb—and that is a life skill. Andrew adds that he plans to continue in the gaming world after he graduates. “At some point, I want to create a YouTube channel… and video games are going to be part of that. They can be valuable because they can be grandiose artistic worlds, and it’s important to absorb different inspirations. Video games are a great vessel for that.” His Minecraft teammate, Ollie ‘25 joined because of his interest in gaming but found unexpected camaraderie within the club. “It’s like a sport, so you bond with your teammates and friends and meet new people. I feel like this really ties into social skills and learning how to get along with people from a team,” he adds.

Minecraft Team
Valorant Team

While there was some initial skepticism to include Valorant in the league, the game, has been an impressive growth opportunity and bonding experience for the team, which includes students Stella ‘26, Sadie ‘23, Trainor ‘23, Isai ‘23, and Serafín ‘26. “The Valorant team started off really rocky but pulled their way up and got into the playoffs. I’m so impressed by the resilience these kids have [shown],” says Jonathan. For Trainer, the thing he likes most about Valorant is the teamwork aspect and the many strategies you can use to try to beat your opponent. “I always love games where I can gather with friends, and we can find new ways to bond,” he adds. In fact, the entire Valorant team shares that the friendships they have made through Esports have been invaluable. “It’s been great to experience a new part of Oakwood, and it was really cool to see how we gradually became better and closer and more organized,” Sadie says. Jonathan isn’t surprised that the team has bonded so well. “Valorant is an opportunity for students to apply the skills they already have, learn new strategies, and build connections.”

Isai '23 at the University of Redlands

As the Oakwood Esports club celebrates an overwhelmingly positive experience this year, Jonathan explains that “it has been a really impressive test run and a great way to get the ball rolling.” For Isai, his leadership role in the Oakwood club has been a remarkable launching pad. “As a senior, I’m planning on going to the University of Redlands, where I already have a job as the Esports Director. I’ll be an Esports Manager, and I’ll also be helping to build their institute.” Jonathan sees a lot of potential for growth within the club, and with several teammates graduating this year, he plans to use the summer to work on strategies and recruiting. “I see this as another way for the really bright and amazing students at this school to sink their teeth in and show their leadership, integrity, and strength in a way that is a fresh experience,” he says. Coaching these kids is one of the highlights of my week.”